Does Bergdahl’s torture at Taliban hands count as time served?

posted at 4:41 pm on March 26, 2015 by Noah Rothman

With the announcement that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will finally face military justice for allegedly deserting his unit in Afghanistan with what some contend was his intention to join the Taliban, this alleged deserter’s defenders have their hands full.

Bergdahl’s self-defense is a dubious one. His actions led the members of his unit to mount an ill-fated rescue mission that cost American lives. Writing in The Daily Beast in June of last year, one of Bergdahl’s fellow soldiers recalled the men who died during that mission.

Though the 2009 Afghan presidential election slowed the search for Bergdahl, it did not stop it. Our battalion suffered six fatalities in a three-week period. On August 18, an IED killed Private First Class Morris Walker and Staff Sergeant Clayton Bowen during a reconnaissance mission. On August 26, while conducting a search for a Taliban shadow sub-governor supposedly affiliated with Bergdahl’s captors, Staff Sergeant Kurt Curtiss was shot in the face and killed. On September 4, during a patrol to a village near the area in which Bergdahl vanished, an insurgent ambush killed Second Lieutenant Darryn Andrews and gravely wounded Private First Class Matthew Martinek, who died of his wounds a week later. On September 5, while conducting a foot movement toward a village also thought affiliated with Bergdahl’s captors, Staff Sergeant Michael Murphrey stepped on an improvised land mine. He died the next day.

It is important to name all these names. For the veterans of the units that lost these men, Bergdahl’s capture and the subsequent hunt for him will forever tie to their memories, and to a time in their lives that will define them as people. He has finally returned. Those men will never have the opportunity.

For petty and fleeting political gain, the White House actively misled the public about the nature of Bergdahl’s service, his capture by enemy forces, and the legality of the transfer of five Taliban commanders for this soldier’s release.

While it is clear that Bergdahl did not serve with “honor and distinction,” as National Security Advisor Susan Rice once claimed, it is not clear what kind of punishment Bergdahl should receive for desertion if he is convicted. He faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison, but his defenders don’t believe he should serve any more time in captivity.

In order to support the case that Bergdahl has suffered enough, the soldier’s attorneys released a statement on Wednesday detailing the extent of the suffering he faced at the hands of his Taliban captors.

“I was kept in constant isolation during the entire 5 years, with little to no understanding of anything that was happening beyond the door I was held behind. I was continuously shown Taliban videos.”

“Told I was going to be executed. Told I was never going back. Told I would leave the next day, and the next day I would be there for 30 years. Told I was going to die there. Told to kill myself. Told I would have my ears and nose cut off, as well as other parts of my body. I was told anything they could think of, weather [sic] it was through sign language, broken English or fluent English.”

Bergdahl’s statement goes on to describe how he was “chained to a bed spread-eagle,” and that his captors tried to rip his hair and beard off. He added that he made 12 attempts to escape captivity, but he failed every time.

Bergdahl’s critics will not find this account of his suffering compelling. After all, he still has his life whereas some of his former comrades do not. But those who might be inclined to see Bergdahl’s suffering at the Taliban’s hands as the equivalent of time served in prison are embracing a logical fallacy.

Many on the left eagerly slay a straw man when they contend that Republican critics of the “Bergdahl Swap” would have preferred to let this American soldier rot in Taliban captivity indefinitely. No responsible voices on the right have made this contention, but it serves the left’s purposes to suggest that their opponents are irrational and motivated purely by a blind desire for retribution. But some on the left make a compelling case when they claim that, not only does the United States have a responsibility to retrieve all of its soldiers from enemy hands, but that the government also has a duty to ensure that every American citizen faces American justice.

Therefore, it is inconsistent to suggest that Bergdahl’s time in Taliban hands is equivalent to time served in an American prison should he be found guilty of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. To credit Bergdahl with time in detention because he sought out the Taliban and was subject to their cruelties would not be justice. Deep down, those who allow their hearts to bleed for Bergdahl know that.

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Send him to the gallows.

wheelgun on March 26, 2015 at 9:42 PM

Does Bergdahl’s torture at Taliban hands count as time served?

If true that may cover his being a traitor, but it doesn’t cover his desertion.

antipc on March 26, 2015 at 10:01 PM

He won’t spend any time in prison because Obama will pardon him if convicted.

Nothing – absolutely nothing – will be allowed to blemish Obama’s legacy.

catmman on March 26, 2015 at 10:24 PM

There must be a bigger story around Bergdahl, who, once “recovered” by the absurd and illegal bulk terrorist swap, inexplicably was unable to re-unite with his (admittedly nutty) parents. Nobody should believe anything he says after what he did to his fellow servicemen. It would be disappointing, of course, if he was not tortured by the enemy, but he is probably lying, and military justice can probably establish that too. So he should get extra time for lying to get clemency.

I’m just surprised that the pentagon had the nerve to call this swap out for the dud that it was. The enemy got 5 terrorists and all we got was this Bergdahl misfit.

Let him serve six life sentences for the harm that he chose to do.

virgo on March 27, 2015 at 1:02 AM

Only in Obama’s America would one get time served credit for bad behavior.

rplat on March 27, 2015 at 9:15 AM

For the troll: I served (as a Navy CTI). Yes, even this REMF thinks the traitorous scum should take his last breath before a firing squad. The thought that people actually think that his time with the enemy should count as legitimate time served outrages me. The words I have to say will be said out loud and not on this forum since I have no desire to be banned.

Anna on March 27, 2015 at 9:24 AM

Wasn’t the deserter carrying a gun for allah while he was gone?

Obamatrix on March 27, 2015 at 9:52 AM

Bergdhahl’s treatment by the Taliban was a direct result of his decision to desert his unit. Perhaps he expected the Taliban to welcome him with open arms, but that miscalculation shouldn’t count toward time served.

He should also be charged with involuntary manslaughter since by his decision to desert in the face of the enemy, he caused the death of soldiers who tried to find him.

Also, I don’t give any credit to Berghahl’s description of his treatment in captivity. He has an incentive to exaggerate how badly he was treated and there is no evidence that anything he says is true.

He should be tried on the charge of desertion in the face of the enemy and sentenced accordingly.

Technically, Bergdahl defected to the Taliban. It just didn’t turn out the way he thought it would.

Everything that may have happened while he was a deserter was of his own doing and can’t be proved.

However, in today’s politicized military, it’s entirely possible that Bergdahl could walk free.

BMF on March 27, 2015 at 10:05 AM

We have only Bergdahl’s word that he was tortured AT ALL. Anyone here prepared to take that word as gospel?

PJ Emeritus on March 27, 2015 at 10:27 AM

Does Bergdahl’s torture at Taliban hands count as time served?

Isn’t that kind of like asking if you steal a plane, does your time in it count towards your frequent flyer miles?

Um, no.

GrumpyOldFart on March 27, 2015 at 10:55 AM

Bergdahl definitely deserves prison for desertion, and time spent in Taliban hands is no excuse for not administering that justice under American law. Besides, five years in an American prison will be a piece of cake compared to what he described of his treatment from the Taliban.

RebeccaH on March 27, 2015 at 12:37 PM

Does Bergdahl’s torture at Taliban hands count as time served? Hell no. He wanted to join to the Taliban….be careful what you wish for.

DebinRTP on March 27, 2015 at 12:38 PM

I missed the weekly reports of his treatment by the Taliban. Surely we have documentation to support his “treatment” while in “captivity” (did he join them or was he captured?) Sounds like a good story after he was all lawyer-ed up. The comments by his fellow soldiers and his C.O. best tell the story. How could we trust ANYTHING he says?

Sad as it may seem, it appears the machinery to simply let him go has been put in motion and the dog and pony show will go on anyway. I wonder if there is enough real military officers left after Clinton and Obama have removed most the officers with backbones and be-damned their promotions attitude. Let us hope

minus200 on March 27, 2015 at 1:02 PM

Is there reason to believe Bergdahl’s story of ‘torture’? There’s ample evidence of the aid he gave to the Taliban.

Sorry, don’t much care about what may have happened to him after his conscious choice to desert and seek out and aid the enemy, resulting in how many deaths and injuries again?

F*ck him.

Midas on March 27, 2015 at 3:06 PM

Allowing Bergdahl “time served” for his time with the Taliban is kind of like granting sympathy to the Menendez brothers because they are orphans!

landlines on March 27, 2015 at 4:11 PM

Bergdahl was never tortured – he was with friends the entire time.

Pork-Chop on March 26, 2015 at 5:10 PM

Are you being naive or sarcastic?

thuja on March 26, 2015 at 5:16 PM

You appear to be uninformed.

Bergdahl was not ‘captured’, and was never ‘tortured’. After deserting his post, he sought out the Taliban, joined their ranks, converted to islam, and taught bomb-building to his fellow terrorists, for the next several years.

Pork-Chop on March 27, 2015 at 4:19 PM

I don’t know why but this “situation” reminds me of the Dirty Harry Movie where the scuzbag perp pays someone else to beat him up.
I believe that if he does not go to prison now we may hear of him again.

RayNAiken on March 27, 2015 at 5:18 PM

landlines on March 27, 2015 at 4:11 PM


GrumpyOldFart on March 27, 2015 at 8:43 PM